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The Slightest Sardine

James Wood: A literary dragnet, 20 May 2004

The Oxford English Literary History. Vol. XII: 1960-2000: The Last of England? 
by Randall Stevenson.
Oxford, 624 pp., £30, February 2004, 0 19 818423 9
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... to say that, for most writers, greedy to learn and emulate, this is the only important question. Randall Stevenson’s volume in the Oxford English Literary History, which provides an account of 1960 to 2000, prompts these thoughts, because his book has no interest in aesthetic intention and no interest in aesthetic success. It is a purely academic ...

Like choosing between bacon and egg and bacon and tomato

Christopher Tayler: The Wryness of Julian Barnes, 15 April 2004

The Lemon Table 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 213 pp., £16.99, March 2004, 9780224071987
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... definitely say that he’s ‘sceptical’ about ‘grand narratives’. You could even say, as Randall Stevenson does in The Last of England?, the final volume of the Oxford English Literary History, that England, England ‘exactly illustrates’ the ideas of Jean Baudrillard – although Barnes is as ironic about Parisian rhetoric as he is about ...


Stefan Collini: The Movement, 25 June 2009

The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and Their Contemporaries 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 336 pp., £18.99, May 2009, 978 0 19 955825 4
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... volume of the Oxford English Literary History covering the period 1960-2000 (published in 2004), Randall Stevenson complained of what he saw as the Movement’s parochialism and unadventurousness, and lamented ‘the extent and longevity of its influence over English poetry in the decades that followed’. As all this indicates, the ground which Zachary ...

The Raging Peloton

Iain Sinclair: Boris Bikes, 20 January 2011

... Larkin as could be imagined, was made public when a broadsheet responded to large claims made by Randall Stevenson in The Last of England. Prynne, in black corduroy jacket, orange tie, had his image snatched as he rode through Cambridge on his bicycle. Soon afterwards he began to make extended visits to China. By 2000, thanks to new political ...

Rosy Revised

Robert Olby: Rosalind Franklin, 20 March 2003

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA 
by Brenda Maddox.
HarperCollins, 380 pp., £20, June 2002, 0 00 257149 8
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... for a 1987 BBC television film called Life’s Story, in which Franklin was played by Juliet Stevenson. She gave a remarkable performance, and Crick’s impression was that she was ‘not only the true centre of the film – she is almost the only person who really appears to be doing science.’ Here was the beginning of a revaluation of Franklin’s ...

Prize Poems

Donald Davie, 1 July 1982

Arvon Foundation Poetry Competion: 1980 Anthology 
by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Kilnhurst Publishing Company, 173 pp., £3, April 1982, 9780950807805
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Burn this 
by Tom Disch.
Hutchinson, 63 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... similarly accomplished essay in the Dantesque); from Pauline Rainford, Monica Ditmas, Anne Stevenson (two) and John Whitworth; from Aidan Carl Mathews (another besides ‘Severances’); from Thomas Shapcott (who may be Australian – we aren’t told) and from Peter Bland (probably, by the same token, a New Zealander); and from U. A. Fanthorpe ...

Lying doggo

Christopher Reid, 14 June 1990

Becoming a poet 
by David Kalstone, edited by Robert Hemenway.
Hogarth, 299 pp., £20, May 1990, 0 7012 0900 3
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... less common. Why, though, has it been so difficult for people just to see that she’s great? Randall Jarrell did, clearly enough, when in a 1956 review of the Poems he wrote: ‘Occasionally you meet someone and feel in astonished joy: “Well, this is what people ought to be like”; this is what poems ought to be like.’ For Jarrell, evidently, it was ...

No Accident

Zachary Leader: Gore Vidal’s Golden Age, 21 June 2001

The Golden Age: A Novel 
by Gore Vidal.
Little, Brown, 467 pp., £17.99, October 2000, 0 316 85409 3
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... themselves and the world, and to enter into history without illusion. In The Golden Age Adlai Stevenson, another loser, is likened to Hamlet: ‘Yes,’ Peter Sanford comments, ‘he couldn’t make up his mind but at least he had one to make up or not.’ Empire is almost six hundred pages long. In draft, under the title ‘Manifest Destiny’, it was ...

All the girls said so

August Kleinzahler: John Berryman, 2 July 2015

The Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 427 pp., £11.99, October 2014, 978 0 374 53455 4
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77 Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 84 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53452 3
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Berryman’s Sonnets 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 127 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53454 7
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The Heart Is Strange 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 179 pp., £17.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 22108 9
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Poets in their Youth 
by Eileen Simpson.
Farrar, Straus, 274 pp., £11.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 23559 8
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... seemed, was ceded pride of place, the ‘most important American poet now at work’. Lowell and Randall Jarrell, roommates at Kenyon College in the 1930s, and to a lesser extent Berryman too, were big on rating and ranking: the top three poets, the top three oyster houses or second-basemen, the three best Ibsen plays – they seemed especially to like the ...

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